Homestead life on the prairie was a place for families to live the American dream. Many settlers ventured around the countryside in search of the perfect acreage. However, many homesteaders in Morton County made their earnings through the railroad.
One of the original settlements in Morton County is Sims, located straight north of Almont. According to Dakota Datebook by Prairie Public Radio, the town originated in 1880 and the population grew to well over 1,000 by 1884. Led by the Northern Pacific Railroad, hundreds flocked to Sims during the coal-mining boom and for the town brickyard. However, in only six years the population was down to only about 400 people.
Another silent town on the prairie is Bluegrass. According to “Origins of North Dakota Place Names,” railroad surveyers named the town Bluegrass because of the, “Wide-bladed, blue-colored, bunch grass found here in considerable abundance… An article in the Dickinson Jubilee Edition claims that Custer’s Cavalry brought the seed from Kentucky.”
These two historic towns are slices of history, nestled on the prairie, ready to tell us their story.
In 1878, the N.P.R.R. uncovered a thick vein of coal. This plus fresh spring water helped stimulate growth. The town was first called Carbon for the Carbon Pressed Brick and Lime Co. The name changed and a post office was established in May 1883. Nonetheless the office closed in Oct. 1947 with the mail and townspeople moving to Almont to pursue their “American dreams.” Photo by Katie Jones.
The Scandinavian Lutheran Church and parsonage are the only two building in decent condition. Former First Lady Laura Bush visited the church in 2008 for the Save America’s Treasures program. However, she did not meet the notoriously friendly, Gray Lady, who still inhabits the parsonage since her death in the early 1900s. Photo by Katie Jones.
Another view of the abandoned brick house left behind to sit silently on the prairie. Photo by Katie Jones.
Nestled on an abandoned road in Sims are two abandoned houses that use to stand on a main road. Although, the bridge is not usable, it probably bustled with miners and townsfolk back-in-the-day. Photo by Katie Jones.
Bluegrass can be found about ten miles northwest of New Salem. A rural post office was established in July 1902, with Wilheim C. Michaels as the postmaster. Photo by Katie Jones.
Bluegrass was equipped with their own gas station back in the day; however, once the post office was shut down in Aug. 1955, things started to go downhill. The town started to look towards New Salem instead and left behind a close knit history. Photo by Katie Jones.